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With New Gmail And Chrome Integrations, Is Google Trying To “Colonize” iOS Devices?
Is Google simply trying to create a better user experience on the iPhone and iPad or is it trying to “colonize” iOS with its apps? It all depends on your point of view — though, it’s probably a bit of both.
Users of the new Gmail app have the (default) option to go directly to the native versions of YouTube and Google Maps, as well as open Chrome via links in email. Previously, such links would have opened the browser embedded within Gmail or linked out to the Safari browser. In other words, users now can access the superior app experience vs. the mobile Web experience that would have occurred previously.
Many writers have focused on the idea that this change is designed to keep people within Google’s iOS universe longer. That’s true; it’s both a self-serving move and user-experience upgrade simultaneously. (As an aside, I wasn’t able to find any data about the ratio of Gmail users who rely primarily on the Gmail app vs. the native iOS mail app for Gmail.)
Those who don’t like the change can turn off the Google apps. It’s a simple process, but one that is somewhat buried at the same time. Within the Gmail app, users go to the upper left “three bars” button and then the gears/settings button and then select “Google apps.” Thereafter, Chrome, Maps and YouTube linking can be turned off.
However, as with most default settings, the majority of users are unlikely to make any changes.
The new Gmail app also introduced the ability to selectively sign out of individual Google accounts. Previously, there was only a global sign in or out capability.
In a related move, Google is encouraging iOS developers to use Chrome as a default browser for their apps when mobile Web content is accessed:
As an iOS app developer, when your users want to access web content, you currently have two options: create your own in-app web browser frame, or send users away from your app to a browser.
With Chrome’s OpenInChromeController class with x-callback, users can open a web page in Chrome and then return to your app with just one tap.
The incentive for the developer to adopt Chrome is that users will be reminded to come back to the app in question through “x-callback.”
Google and its branded apps dominate the Android user experience. But the same isn’t true on the iPhone and iPad. There, Google is merely one more developer. These moves, when taken together, are a bid for more centrality and attention on iOS.
In much the same way, Google Now for iOS, which was introduced two weeks ago, tries to get iPhone and iPad users to spend more time with Google’s search app. Google is also reportedly in the process of introducing Google Now for OS X.
In the US market, iOS is arguably more strategic than Android is to Google. According to an analysis performed by investment firm Piper Jaffray, iOS devices drove 69 percent of mobile Web traffic in April compared with Android’s 26.5 percent. StatCounter portrays the traffic ratio as much closer: 54 percent iOS to 40 percent Android (with just under 6 percent other).
So, while Android is selling more devices; in the US, at least, the iOS audience is driving considerably more traffic to publishers.